National Epidemic of Horrible People Pretending to Be Disabled

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This trend probably won’t do much for your faith in humanity: Around the country, an increasing number of ethically challenged human beings are faking disabilities in order to snag good parking spots, cut lines at theme parks, or just bring their dogs into restaurants.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s a federal crime to use a fake service animal to take advantage of privileges reserved for those who genuinely need the assistance of such pets. Nonetheless, according to a recent report from the Associated Press, the use of phony “dog tags” is on the rise, with owners faking papers or buying badges off the Internet just so that they can bring their pooches into restaurants, shops, and other venues that don’t usually allow dogs. Advocates of both pets and the disabled are divided as to how to police those who abuse service animal privileges, and some are calling for federal authorities to better regulate and enforce service animal rules around the country.

While it’s assumed that only a small percentage of the population would even think of using a faux service dog to avoid leaving a pet outside a store or at home in order to grab a bite at a restaurant, even a single incident of phony service dog usage is enough to get people—disabled and able-bodied alike—up in arms. Outrage followed the story of a 33-year-old New Yorker named Brett David, who was featured in the New York Post over the summer. David bragged about bringing his fake “therapy dog” named Napoleon into movie theaters, restaurants, nightclubs, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and more mainly because “I was sick of tying up my dog outside,” as he put it. “Sometimes, they’ll give me a hassle and say bring the papers next time, but for five bucks, you order [a patch] off eBay, and it works 90 percent of the time,” he explained.

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People like David aren’t the only ones pretending to be disabled to take advantage of special perks. In late September, the Walt Disney Company felt compelled to change its disabled guest policy at theme parks partly due to “abuse of the system.” The announcement came after reports surfaced that wealthy guests were paying wheelchair-riding tour guides top dollar so that the group could use the line-skipping privileges granted to the disabled at Disney theme parks.

Meanwhile, over the years, police around the U.S. periodically engage in sweeps to round up drivers fraudulently using handicapped parking passes, and apparently it’s pretty easy to snag people abusing the system. Last spring, over the course of a mere four hours, authorities in Oakland, Calif., confiscated 13 handicapped placards being used illegally by drivers. That’s out of a total of 70 placards they came across, meaning nearly one in five was fraudulent.

A report in Seattle published over the summer estimated that one in eight drivers using disabled parking placards is doing so fraudulently, costing the city $1.4 million annually. Like in Seattle, drivers with such placards get to park for free in Providence, R.I., where it just so happens that there has been an influx of cars with disabled parking passes near train stations and bus stops. Police began routinely demanding verification and handed out multiple $500 fines to those who were using passes registered to someone else. “Not only is it an affront to the persons who have a disability and need the space, they’re cheating the city out of revenue by parking there,” one Providence police officer said of the offenders.

In yet another sting, in Orlando, Fla., police zeroed in on offenders like a 34-year-old woman using a placard registered to someone who was 85, and who had died a few months prior to the bust. Apparently, the driver, arrested just before 3 a.m., was using the placard in order to park in a convenient handicap spot downtown—so that her car was nearby when the bars closed.

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Suspicions of disabled placard abuse have gotten so bad in New Jersey—where more than 500,000 people have special placard and license plate privileges—that the state introduced tougher regulations last spring. In the past, anyone who classified for a pass could renew automatically every three years. As of August 1, though, drivers must submit proof of their condition every three years before they’re granted special privileges. Disabled parking placards were also redesigned so that it is easier for police and meter checkers to see expiration dates, and so that it’s more difficult for drivers to unlawfully change the information on the passes.

27 comments
KimberlyHolloway
KimberlyHolloway

The easy way to solve the problem, no more handicapped parking, period.  I have a friend who has spent most of his life in a wheel chair, paralyzed from the waist down.  He hardly ever uses handicapped spots.  He puts it like this "I have an extra set of wheels, I can park in the back 40 and wheel in!" ;)

rwatson52
rwatson52

I am disabled and live in San Francisco. The parking is scarce here and disabled parking placards are horribly abused. I can only hope the State of California will do something to end this mess. Tougher restrictions on the placards would go a long way in helping to stop the abuse.  Hopefully, someone in the state bureaucracy is listening to our pleas for help!!  I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen able-bodied people RUN to their car and then remove a handicap placard from the rear-view mirror.  PLEASE help the disabled and stop these people!!

eddie.saldana
eddie.saldana

I live in Texas and am Hispanic.  I find it odd that when a hispanic is speaking spanish in Texas people can get offended and cause those "you must be a dirty illegal" looks however I notice that when for instance a noticeably well a off Hindu driving a Mercedes parks in a handicap spot with his badge yet neither him nor his wife or teen daughter are disabled, nobody says anything, then as they speak in English about telling the hostess they have a smaller party than actual so they can skip the waiting line and then force the wait staff to add the additional chairs while the "nice" family huddles around like calling a football play (showing a clear pattern of family sponsored deviance) again nobody says anything, so my question is does obvious deviant behavior get accepted when it is done by a "nice" rich family and none is tolerated for poor families, are we not breeding smarter deviants and dumber poor?  Is that really the way we want to raise our children in such an environment?  Why do the poor not say anything or do anything but instead have the same viewpoints ironically of those abusing them?  is it a weird cultural Stockholm syndrome going on?  I really just want to pose the question and hear honest answers if possible

tbollinger67
tbollinger67

Lymphedema has made my legs hard to function, however I always while being disabled, try to park outside of handicap spaces if close enough to make the walk.  I figure there are more folks with more serious problems than I who need those spaces.  I call it, "Compassionate Disability"...lol


PrincessShalimarHohner
PrincessShalimarHohner

I am disabled but I don't use a placard for my own car, I have disabled plates.  I keep a placard in my purse to use if I am in another person's car.  Several times I have seen cars without placards or disabled plates parked in the handicap parking spot.  When I see this I report it to the store manager but never has any store manager done anything about it.  I get very angry when non handicapped people park in the handicapped parking place.  I also get angry when a young person parks there smoking or reading and they are "waiting" for someone with a placard in the window.  Most of the time the person they are waiting for is very young and agile and I'll bet it grandma's placard.

PrincessShalimarHohner
PrincessShalimarHohner

I have a PTSD service dog. She went through nearly 2 years of intensive training and has been my faithful companion for over 9 years. I live in a retirement apartment complex. There is another resident here with a fake service dog.  It is an ESA dog. (Emotional Support Animal) It has not had any training at all and does no tasks for it's owner, but she still takes it to stores in a "service dog vest" she puts it in a cart (service dogs NEVER ride in carts) and it wears a California San Luis Obispo County Assistance Dog tag.  My dog has a California San Luis Obispo County Assistance Dog tag also, but she earned it by going through intensive service dog training.  I reported her to San Luis Obispo Animal services but I don't know if they did anything about the dog.  I hope they at the very least take the tag away and fine her.  She should not get away with this fraud.  My dog worked hard to have the privilege of wearing this tag, her dog did not, he doesn't deserve it and should not be wearing it.  She scammed the system, that is not right and should not be rewarded.

Belisarius86
Belisarius86

If someone gets caught for something like this, they should be heavily fined and publicly shamed.

And then their social security number needs to be flagged in all government agencies, and they should be investigate for every other type of fraud, and an IRS audit.

There are good odds they're willing to scam the system in plenty of other ways.

JoeWeiss1958
JoeWeiss1958

Its time for the Congress and State Legislatures to improve laws so that non-Disabled will not flaunt laws that Protect the Disabled.

skiffy_grrl
skiffy_grrl

I'm disabled, and have to put up with people assuming I'm faking it because of these idiots. That said, I have better and worse days, and even better and worse hours. I may not need handicapped parking in the morning, and it might look like I'm faking it, but I've had evenings where I would find walking beyond handicap parking extremely difficult. Or I might be fine all day long. I never know. So be careful of who you think might be faking a handicap, just because someone looks abled, doesn't mean they are. 

I've also known people with "emotional support" service animals. They've been accused of just wanting to bring their pets with them but I'm not privy to all their medical/psychological history. 

Yoshi
Yoshi

It goes WAY farther than this. The big money is in people claiming disability/injury and collecting monthly checks(forever). It's a whole industry in itself, from the fakers to their legal representatives, and everyone in between. I know a couple who earn a decent living just watching and reporting on claimants. They aren't P.I's, just ordinary people.

GreenFields
GreenFields

Jeez. This is the kind of stuff that collapses societies. America, we need a refresher on ethics and turn our fixation from the morality classification of adult, intimate relationships, towards examining the immorality of pretending you're disabled for "perks". New, public service announcements --- online before content, on T.V. and radio --- might get people thinking.

rpearlston
rpearlston

What these selfish nitwits are doing is more than just an affront to those of us who are disabled.  It's an assault on us as a group.  We don't have a choice but to use Aids to Daily Living, including both mechanical and biological mobility aids.  THese are not jsut a part of our lives, but they very quickly become a part of us.  WHen a selfish idiot decides that s/he takes precedence over someone who needs the help, it can never be simply an affront.  After all, such twits could well be ruining our plans for the day, the week, or even the month with one selfish act.  The penalties can't be sufficiently harsh.

suzannemfox1
suzannemfox1

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horriblebob
horriblebob

In a country where obseity is now a desease (ka-ching!), where armed forces servicemembers can claim PTSD even though they've never been shot at or fired a shot or seen an enemy  (ka-ching, ka-ching!), you're talking about disabled parking placards?

spookiewriter
spookiewriter

The best are the ones who get the handicapped placards so they can park.

chokingkojak
chokingkojak

You know that group of bikers in NYC that beat the guy in the Range Rover?  

Said bikers should be made to perform the following community service:  beat the living hell out of Brett David.

LilaSchott
LilaSchott

That's it. I'm done with humanity. Such horrible people.

RosaHines12
RosaHines12

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jakeEaglshield
jakeEaglshield

@KimberlyHolloway I don't think that is the answer. there are a lot of people with disabled family members that do not drive,but still use those spaces,even if that person is not in the car. I suggest a different color placard for households with a non driving handicapped family member. There is no cure for stupid.

jakeEaglshield
jakeEaglshield

@Belisarius86 there are lots of people who have handicap parking privliges who really don't deserve them. I really don't think fat and lazy should qualify as a handicap. Stay the hell out of Burger King and walk 20 yards.

applechris117
applechris117

@skiffy_grrl I'm also disabled. And go through what you do. Even though you can't see my illness I still get asked by cops if my handicap placard is really mine and time and time again I prove that it is mine by showing them my ID and the paper they gave me proving that it is mine.I have old people come up to me and give me a dirty look when I park in the spaces also. Needless to say I only use it when I don't feel good or am getting my IV medication. And when I do use it its the farthest handicapped space because I do understand that there are people with a worse disability than me that need it. 

GreenFields
GreenFields

...and they do leave a lasting impression. Is still remember the Public Service Announcement about dependability --- the one about the girl going to a party and forgetting her friend, who depended on a ride as well as others about looking out for vulnerable people.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@horriblebob PTSD is a legitimate problem, and it doesn't result only from having been on the front lines in a conflict.  THat you refuse to think so only makes you sound like an idiot.  And yet, neither of the problems that you mentioned  is relevant here.  ANd abusing the concept of assistance devices of all types is cruel and abusive to those of us with a legitimate need for them.  You need to wake up, then to grow up and see the world as it truly is.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@chokingkojak Do that and he could end up needing an assistive device of some type.  The better punishment for Mr David would be to have the courts ban him not only form owning animals but from associating with them for the rest of his life.  (It is an appropriate sentence, and is one often lowered upon an abuser of animals.)  IN fact, that ought to be the punishment for anyone who abuses this system regarding animals.

And as for those who abuse parking permits, take their licenses and ban them, for life, from driving or being driven (except by public transit).

Neither is too harsh.  If you sincerely believe that it is, try living my live for day - I use a walker.

chokingkojak
chokingkojak

@rpearlston @chokingkojak 

I suspect that your suggestions are the reasonable and just way to deal with people like Brett David.  

But if that doesn't work, there's always the bikers.  And we have to be realistic:  Do you think anybody on the streets of Manhattan is really going to give a dam- if Brett David gets targeted and every bone in his body broken?   

Or would we instead hear this:  "Yeah, that little f-ck, David, really had it coming (laughter)?"